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Bridging the gap between theory and reality
For those of us who learned our craft on the job (as I did, as an export traffic manager in the 1970s and '80s) rather than through an academic program, the world of supply chain academia can seem distant and mysterious. If you "grew up" in the warehouse, on the loading dock, or in the manufacturing plant, you can't help but wonder whether the theories students read about in books or the math equations and analyses professors sketch out on whiteboards could have much practical application. Connecting classroom theory with the realities of what it takes to plan, make, source, and deliver is a worthy goal. This is hardly a new thought, though; in 2008, Supply Chain Quarterly published "Bridging the gulf between business and academia," an article by Dr. J. Paul Dittmann of the University of Tennessee on this very topic. Indeed, many academic institutions are devoting considerable resources to bringing supply chain practitioners and educators together not only to collaborate on research but also to share ideas about curricula and the job skills needed by today's graduates. It's an opportunity no practitioner should miss.
Dr. Chris Caplice, executive director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Transportation & Logistics and the recipient of CSCMP's 2016 Distinguished Service Award, highlighted this issue in his acceptance speech at CSCMP's Annual Conference in September. Typically, practitioners and academics don't connect much, he said. They eye each other across the room like seventh-graders at a school dance—interested, but not knowing how to approach each other, as he put it. But there is much they can learn from each other, he continued. "Academics can be divorced from current reality, and what they teach may be obsolete," he said. "Meanwhile, practitioners may be stagnant, and they may not recognize that leading-edge research can help them solve problems and improve company performance."
Its ability to bridge the gap between research and practice is one of CSCMP's most important contributions to the discipline, Caplice said. We agree. That's why Supply Chain Quarterly and CSCMP's Research Strategies Committee are collaborating on a new department titled "Research for the Real World." Beginning with the Quarter 3 2016 issue, we will highlight a recent article from CSCMP's academic journal, the Journal of Business Logistics, that was chosen by the committee for its value for practitioners. Under the guidance of Senior Editor Susan Lacefield, each edition of Research for the Real World will include a brief synopsis of the academic article as well as an interview with the principal author on the main takeaways and practical implications of the research. The first installment will appear in print and on our website in early November. We hope you find it both thought provoking and useful.
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